Improving Emissions Targets: “If Trump Won’t Do It, We Will,” CEOs Say

More U.S. organizations—including Adobe, CVS Health, Gap, Nike and Merck—are taking climate change seriously and have committed to emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement, according to Picking up the pace: tracking progress on corporate climate action by CDP, a nonprofit global environmental disclosure platform.

This year, 151 corporates, representing 14 percent of a sample of 1,073 responding companies, have committed to science-based targets, an increase from 94 companies in 2016. An additional 30 percent—317 companies—anticipate setting the targets approved under The Science Based Targets initiative, a collaborative effort between CDP, World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the United Nations Global Compact.

Existing targets take the sample of companies almost one-third (31 percent) of the way to being consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees, a notable improvement since last year (25 percent).

“Two years ago, the Paris Agreement fired the gun in the race to a low-carbon economy,” says CDP’s chief executive Paul Simpson. “This year, the recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures accelerated the pace.”

The most notable examples named in the analysis are:
AkzoNobel: The Dutch chemicals company will source 100 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2050 and introduced a carbon pricing policy including a ‘social cost of carbon’ of €135/tonne of CO2e.

BT: The UK telecom giant has set ambitious science-based targets to reduce its direct emissions by 87 percent by 2030.

EDP: The Portuguese energy company produced some 65 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2016; by 2020, that figure is forecast to rise to 75 percent. It is projecting that its relative CO2 emissions will be 30 percent below 2015 levels by that date, on course to meet its 2030 science-based target.

Nissan: The Japanese carmaker aims to be the leader in zero-emission vehicles. Since its launch in 2010, Nissan has sold more than 240,000 electric vehicles (EVs) around the world, becoming the number one provider of mainstream, mass market and affordable EVs.

San Diego: The U.S. city is working with GE Current, AT&T, Intel and others on its $30 million Smart City initiative, which aims to improve the region’s energy independence, to empower consumers to use EVs, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to encourage economic growth.

Unilever: A member of RE100, the Dutch-British consumer goods company is committed to sourcing 100 percent of total energy across its operations from renewables by 2030.

More companies also are now mapping out their low-carbon future—89 percent have emission reduction targets this year (up from 85 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2010, though CDP’s sample and methodology was different in 2010, so the differences between that year and 2017 reflect a general indication of trends, rather than an exact comparison).

A majority (68 percent) of companies this year have set targets to at least 2020 (up from 55 percent in 2016), and 20 percent have longer-term targets to 2030 and beyond (up from 14 percent in 2016).

In addition, over a third (36 percent) of companies are offering low-carbon products such as electric vehicles and zero-energy buildings (up from 30 percent in 2016). Three-quarters (75 percent) say their products and services enable third parties to reduce emissions, up from 64 percent in 2016. The number of companies with a renewable energy consumption target has increased by 23 percent in the last year, with companies including BT and Unilever committed to sourcing 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 as part of the RE100 initiative.

“The majority of the large corporations we analyzed do not yet appear to have the right, science-based targets in place to successfully transition their business in line with the Paris Agreement, although many have ambitions to take this step in the next two years,” he says. “We strongly urge them to follow through and align their targets with climate science, to ensure their resilience in the transition to a well below 2-degree world.”

In a separate analysis, CDP ranked 160 companies as A-grade for their approaches to climate change, water and deforestation. Unilever and L’Oréal lead the way, both achieving As across all three areas on CDP’s 2017 Climate, Water and Forests A Lists.

“Climate change is already affecting companies – both through the direct impacts of steadily rising global temperatures and through the policies that governments around the world adopt in response,” says Unilever’s CEO Graeme Pitkethly. “At Unilever, we reduced CO2 from energy in manufacturing by almost two-thirds over the past two decades and have set a bold target of being carbon positive by 2030, committed to sourcing 100% of our energy from renewable sources.”

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades of experience writing about corporate, financial and industry-specific issues. She is based in Running Springs, Calif.

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